In Gloucester Stage’s “The Effect”, Love is the Drug

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘The Effect’ – Written by Lucy Prebble; Directed by Sam Weisman; Set & Projection Design by J. Michael Griggs; Costume Design by Miranda Kau Giurleo; Lighting Design by Russ Swift; Sound Design by David Remedios; Composer, Claudio Ragazzi; Choreography by Maurice Emmanuel Parent. Presented by the Gloucester Stage Company through July 8

 

Oh Oh, catch that buzz
Love is the drug I’m thinking of
Oh Oh, can’t you see
Love is the drug for me

“Love is the Drug” – 1975 single by Roxy Music

 

Is true love something that can be prescribed?

 

The Effect, now making its New England premiere at Gloucester Stage, asks that question, as Big Pharma guy Dr. Toby Sealey of Rauschen Pharmaceuticals hopes to create “a Viagra for the heart” as clinical trials for the experimental antidepressant with the unsexy name of RLU37 get underway. But as we soon find out, results are not always predictable whenever there’s a human element in the experiment, even in a sterile clinical setting.

 

Read more “In Gloucester Stage’s “The Effect”, Love is the Drug”

Delicious Storytelling Dished Up in “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti”

 

By Michele Markarian

 

“I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti.” Adapted by Jacques LaMarre from the memoir by Giulia Melucci. Directed by Ilyse Robbins . Presented by Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main Street, Stoneham, through June 25.

 

“I can count on my breasts the number of times I’ve missed a meal”, Giulia (Kerri Jill Garbis) tells us. For Giulia, food is love, as she demonstrates by actually cooking dinner for eight guests onstage while telling us unfortunate stories from her love life.  If you have an interest in food and a colorful romantic past, this is the show for you.

Read more “Delicious Storytelling Dished Up in “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti””

Flat Earth’s “Fat Pig” Artfully Combines Pain, Laughter

 

by Mike Hoban

 

“Fat Pig” Written by Neil LaBute. Directed by Juliet Bowler. Presented by The Flat Earth Theatre at the Mosesian Center for the Arts, Watertown, through June 24.

 

Flat Earth Theatre follows up their luminous (and Elliot Norton Award–winning) Silent Sky with another first-rate production, Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig, playing through next weekend (June 24). This dark dramedy details the unlikely romance between plus-sized librarian Helen, and Tom, a handsome (and thin) up-and-coming corporate guy. The two meet by chance in a crowded restaurant and the mutual attraction is evident early on, as Helen’s disarming and sexually-tinged wit draws Tom in, and he quickly finds himself smitten.

Read more “Flat Earth’s “Fat Pig” Artfully Combines Pain, Laughter”

Broadway Fire in Reagle’s “Technicolor Dreamcoat”

 

By CJ Williams

 

Directed and Choreographed by Susan M. Chebookjian, based on original Choreography by Anthony Van Laast. Lighting Design by David Wilson. Set Design by Peter Colao and Richard Schreiber. Music Direction by Dan Rodriguez. Presented by Reagle Music Theatre at 617 Lexington St, Waltham through June 18.

 

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is Broadway-theater fare in unexpectedly Beantown-local affordability – and the Broadway musical is put on to amazing effect at the Reagle Music Theatre in Waltham. For all its crowd-pleasing choruses, and a cast that could sing and dance down Carnegie Hall, “Dreamcoat” nonetheless pulls a nice undercurrent of depth as well.

Read more “Broadway Fire in Reagle’s “Technicolor Dreamcoat””

NSMT Serves Up A Delicious Slice of White Bread with Delightful ‘Music Man’

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘Music Man’ – Book, Music, and Lyrics by Meredith Willson. Story by Willson and Franklin Lacey. Directed by Bob Richard. Choreography, Diane Laurenson. Music Direction by Milton Granger; Scenic Design by Kyle Dixon; Lighting Design by Franklin Meissner; Sound Design by Danny Erdberg; Costume Coordinator and Additional Costume Design by Paula Peasley-Ninestein. Presented by North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly, through June 18.

“I’m as corny as Kansas in August” may be a line from a song from another classic musical, (South Pacific, “A Wonderful Guy”) but it could certainly double as a description of Music Man, the delightful 1957 musical now being given an inspired revival at the North Shore Music Theatre. Set in 1912 Iowa, birthplace of Meredith Willson, writer of the book, music, and lyrics for the Broadway hit, Music Man may be the quintessential white bread musical, but damn – er, darn – is it good.

Read more “NSMT Serves Up A Delicious Slice of White Bread with Delightful ‘Music Man’”

Drama Abounds in “Days of Atonement”

 

By Michele Markarian

 

Days of Atonement. Written by Hanna Azoulay-Hasfari, translated by Shir Freibach. Directed by Guy Ben-Aharon. Presented by Review,, 527 Tremont Street, Boston through June 25.

 

It is the eve of Yom Kippur.  Amira (Dana Stern), a student filmmaker, calls her three estranged sisters to their mother’s apartment in Netivot, to try and locate their elderly Moroccan/Israeli mother, who has disappeared without a note. Malka (Jackie Davis) the oldest sister, is in her own state of perpetual crisis, convinced that her husband David is cheating on her. Evelyn (Adrianne Krstansky), the second oldest, is deeply Orthodox. Pregnant again, in an advanced age and already with eight daughters, she refuses to have an abortion, even though her doctor is recommending it – Evelyn has diabetes. Fanny (Ramona Lisa Alexander), whom Malka suspects has slept with David, had been thrown out of the house as a teenager, her mother jealous of her developing body. Although a successful realtor, Fanny still has emotional wounds that make her reunion difficult and bitter. Amira, the youngest, born after their father has died, is suffering from mental health issues. Each sister feels like she had it the worst growing up.  It’s a play fraught with tension, resentment and, appropriately set on Yom Kippur, forgiveness and repentance.

Read more “Drama Abounds in “Days of Atonement””

Nora Theatre’s ‘Midvale High School Fiftieth Reunion’ Is A Charmer

 

by Mike Hoban

 

The Midvale High School Fiftieth ReunionWritten by Alan Brody, Directed by Lee Mikeska Gardner; Scenic Design by Steven Royal; Costume Design by Chelsea Kerl; Lighting Design by John Malinowski; Sound Design by Nathan Leigh; Choreography by Marlena Yanetti and Felton Sparks. Presented by The Nora Theatre Company at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge through July 2.

 

Is it possible to fall in love for the first time long after AARP has begun mailing you membership offers? That’s the question that Midvale High School Fiftieth Reunion, the superb comic drama now having its world premiere at the Central Square Theater, seems to be asking. This thoughtful and very funny play takes one of life’s ridiculously emotionally trying rituals and uses it as a springboard for an unlikely but utterly charming love story. It also sends up all the awkward moments one encounters at the oft-dreaded high school reunion (crushes revealed, not remembering friend’s names, feigned interest in other’s lives) while cleverly inserting backstory for the characters via a series of revealing flashbacks.

Read more “Nora Theatre’s ‘Midvale High School Fiftieth Reunion’ Is A Charmer”

THE MUSIC MAN (Theatre by the Sea, Matunuck, RI)

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Bill Hanney’s Theatre by the Sea’s second show of their 84th season is “The Music Man” by Meredith Willson. This musical first opened on Broadway on December 19, 1957 and ran for 1375 performances. Robert Preston played the leading role of Harold Hill both onstage and in the 1962 film version. The show is set in Iowa in 1912 and is the story of the fast talking Harold Hill who cons the good citizens of River City into buying musical instruments and band uniforms by promising to create a boy’s band in the town. Not knowing a trumpet from a trombone, Hill expects to skip town with cash in hand, only to be caught up in the arms of the beautiful Marian Paroo, the librarian who transforms him into a reformed rogue and a respectable citizen by show’s end. Director/choreographer Richard Sabellico returns in triumph to direct this show once again at Theatre by the Sea. He last directed it in 1991 with Tony Award winning actor Michael McGrath as Harold Hill. Richard and musical director Eddie Guttman obtain stellar performances from the multitalented cast members. They capture your hearts with their high spirited, energetic and exuberant version which wins them a spontaneous standing ovation at the close of this heartwarming family friendly musical masterpiece.

Richard not only blocks the show marvelously but also supplies the show stopping dance numbers, too. Some of his dances include the Charleston, soft shoe, marching, the hilarious Grecian Urn segment especially impressive are “”76 Trombones”, “Shippopi” and “Marian, the Librarian.” Not only is the orchestra terrific under Eddie’s direction but the annunciation of the lyrics is so clear you can understand every lyric wonderfully. The splendid sets are by Kyle Dixon while the multitude of gorgeous costumes is by Jeff Hendry. Leading this talented cast is Jason Ostrowski as Harold Hill. He has a superb singing voice. He goes from a brash uncaring cad to a remorseful person when confronted by a small boy whose life he changed for the better. Jason cons the town into his way of thinking with his “Trouble” number when he convinces them of the evilness of pool and puts the finishing touches to his con with “76 Trombones” and I loved the reversible suit jacket and band leader jacket. Jason and the cast stop the show with the stunning “76 Trombone” number with an exuberant dance that leaves the audience cheering in the aisles. Another standout number is “Marian” with the kids and Jason doing some spectacular dance moves. Another comic number is “Sadder But Wiser Girl” with Marcellus but his true acting test occurs with the reprise of “Till There Was You” when Harold realizes that he really loves Marian after all. He tugs at your heartstrings as he reforms his wayward behavior at last. He looks a lot like Jerry Van Dyke. I last reviewed Jason in “Hello, Dolly” at Theatre by the Sea back in 2010.

Tiffan Borelli also shines as Marian with her superb soprano voice. Her acting is impeccable. Marian’s distrust of Harold is shown strongly at first but she is finally swayed when Harold brings her extremely shy brother, Winthrop out of his shell. Marian eventually falls for him and decides to keep his secret. Tiffan’s fabulous voice soars off the charts up to a high A in “My White Knight” where she yearns to find a down to earth man to love. She also is brilliant in “Goodnight My Someone” where she wishes to find someone to love, “Will I Ever Tell You?” where she yearns to tell Harold she loves in (done in counterpoint with the quartet’s “Lida Rose”) and the very poignant “Till There Was You” where she confesses her love to Harold at last. Tiffan displays her dancing skills in “Marian” and “Shipoopi.” Jason and Tiffan have a lot of chemistry with each other in these roles.
Michael Perrie Jr. plays Harold’s fellow conman, Marcellus wonderfully. He makes his comic lines hit pay dirt and leads the chorus in “Shipoopi”, one of the big dance numbers. He also plays banjo for this number. Michael also sings “Sadder But Wiser Girl” with Jason. I last reviewed him in “Buddy Holly” last year. Mayor Shinn is well played by Tom Gleadow. As Mayor Shinn, he mangles the English language constantly, winning many laughs along the way. His malapropisms are priceless as are he slow burns at the behavior of his wife and his fellow cohorts. Lorinda Lisitza as Eulalie steals many a scene with her outrageous behavior. She and her gaggle of town gossips stop the show with laughter in “Pickalittle” song and the Grecian Urn sequence has to be seen to be believed. Lorinda is hilarious in this role.

One of the best barbershop quartets can be found in this version with Mike Maino, Joe Connelly, Jamie Jones and Bob O’Connell. They display their voices in “Sincere”, “Goodnight Ladies”, “Lida Rose” and “It’s You”, receiving thunderous applause after each and every one of them. Maria Day shines as Mrs. Paroo with her lilting Irish brogue and her sage advice to her daughter on her love life. She plays the doting mother to the hilt while speaking her mind but also displaying the warmth and caring for both her children. Maria shows off her powerful voice in “Piano Lesson” and “Gary, Indiana.” Bobbie Celine Doherty excellently plays Amarylis who has a crush on Winthrop. She hits the wrong note on purpose during “Piano Lesson” and displays a strong singing voice in “Goodnight My Someone.” She steals many a scene with her astounding stage presence. Her rifle scene with Eulalie is hilarious. I last reviewed her as Tootie in “Meet Me in St. Louis” back in 2014. One of the biggest scene stealers is Patrick Conaway as Winthrop. He captures the hearts of the audience at his sympathetic portrayal of this shy, lisping boy who makes a transformation during the show. Patrick’s powerful voice sells “Wells Fargo Wagon” segment when he shows a child’s exuberance at receiving his trumpet and his solo “Gary, Indiana” is also splendid. The confrontation scene with Harold is a standout moment in the show when he demands to know if he is a liar and crook. The trouble making Tommy who dances up a storm is wonderfully played by Taylor Simmons while Chelsea Goen plays his girl friend, Zaneeta who is the Mayor and Eulalie’s daughter. Playing the villain Charlie Cowell is Dan Prior who wants Harold tarred and feathered but is defeated by the boys band at the end of the show. I last reviewed Dan as Fyedka in “Fiddler” last December. Kudos to the singing and dancing chorus in this musical. I have many happy memories of this show having played a member of the boy’s band back in high school. Once again owner and producer Bill Hanney spares no expense in bringing the best entertainment to RI audiences these past 11 years. “The Music Man” is one more feather in his cap. So be sure to run not walk to the box office before this blockbuster musical leaves Theatre by the Sea on July 15. Tell them Tony sent you.

THE MUSIC MAN (21 June to 15 July)

Theatre by the Sea, 364 Cards Pond Road, Matunuck, RI

1(401)782-8587 or www.theatrebythesea.com

Huntington’s ‘Ripcord’ Delivers Laughs Alongside Odd Couple’s Darker Side

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘Ripcord’ – Written by David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Jessica Stone. Scenic Design by Tobin Ost; Costume Design by Gabriel Berry; Lighting Design by David J. Weiner; Sound Design and Composition by Mark Bennett; Projection Design by Lucy Mackinnon. Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St. Boston through July 2

 

There probably aren’t many plays – even comedies – that could include a scene as implausible as having a septuagenarian drugged, kidnapped, and tricked into jumping out of an airplane without straining its credibility to the point of snapping, but David Lindsay-Abaire manages to not only pull it off but make it convincing in his very funny and ultimately touching Ripcord, now running at the Huntington Theatre through July 2. That scene is just one of the many horrors that two female roommates inflict upon one another to great comic effect as they each try to win the bet to settle a turf battle set in an assisted living facility.

Read more “Huntington’s ‘Ripcord’ Delivers Laughs Alongside Odd Couple’s Darker Side”

“Blood on the Snow” a Surefire Hit

 

By Michele Markarian

 

“Blood on the Snow” – Written by Patrick Gabridge.  Directed by Courtney O’Connor.  Presented by The Bostonian Society at the Old State House, 206 Washington Street, Boston, through August 20.

 

Through a side entrance in the Old State House, you make your way up a winding, wooden staircase to be ushered into The Council Chamber. Two sets of chair rows face each other, flanking a long, elegant table. Dr. Nathaniel Sheidley, Executive Director of the Bostonian Society enters – he’s modern day, by the way – and explains to us that the real-life drama that “Blood on the Snow” is based on took place in this very room, the violence having taken place outside the actual window. Wow. This adds a level of authenticity to what we are about to witness that makes this not just a play, but an experience.

Read more ““Blood on the Snow” a Surefire Hit”